Is Pre-Kindergarten an Educational Panacea? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Scaled-Up Pre-Kindergarten in the United States

41 Pages Posted: 20 Feb 2017 Last revised: 2 Apr 2017

See all articles by Corey DeAngelis

Corey DeAngelis

Reason Foundation; Cato Institute

Heidi Holmes Erickson

University of Arkansas - Department of Education Reform

Gary Ritter

Saint Louis University School of Education

Date Written: February 16, 2017

Abstract

We synthesize the existing research and compute meta-analytic averages for the effects of scaled-up, publicly funded pre-kindergarten (pre-K) programs on student pre-kindergarten achievement in math and reading. Other systematic reviews of pre-K programs have focused on the effects for specific groups of students from various types of pre-K programs. We add to the literature by focusing on scaled-up pre-K often provided at the state level, which is of growing policy interest. Scaled-up programs are large state or district run programs that are available to a large portion of children before they enter kindergarten. We limit our analysis to state and districtwide pre-K programs in the United States from 2000 through 2016. In order to obtain the most accurate effect estimates, we restrict our analysis to experimental and quasi-experimental research designs with the highest internal validity.

We synthesize the short-term cognitive effects of pre-K and find large positive effects of scaled-up public pre-K programs on student pre-kindergarten test scores. In particular, we find that the overall effect on math scores is over a third of a standard deviation and the overall effect on reading scores is three-fifths of a standard deviation. This review is restricted to studies focused on short term results of pre-K programs; our search uncovered only one study rigorously assessing the impacts of scaled-up pre-K programs on student achievement after kindergarten. More research is needed on the sustained effects of pre-K as policymakers debate whether to expand or adopt such programs.

Keywords: early child education; public program evaluation; prekindergarten; preschool; systematic review; meta-analysis

Suggested Citation

DeAngelis, Corey and Holmes Erickson, Heidi and Ritter, Gary, Is Pre-Kindergarten an Educational Panacea? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Scaled-Up Pre-Kindergarten in the United States (February 16, 2017). EDRE Working Paper No. 2017-08. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2920635 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2920635

Corey DeAngelis (Contact Author)

Reason Foundation ( email )

1747 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, DC 20009
United States

Cato Institute ( email )

1000 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20001-5403
United States

Heidi Holmes Erickson

University of Arkansas - Department of Education Reform ( email )

201 Graduate Education Building
Fayetteville, AR 72701
United States

Gary Ritter

Saint Louis University School of Education ( email )

220 North Grand Boulevard
St. Louis, MO 63103
United States
314-977-3290 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.slu.edu/education/faculty/gary-ritter.php

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